We’re taking a break from our series on Bach’s Brandenburg concerti to listen to the incredibly powerful “Poem for Piano” by Babajanyan, performed by Armen Babakhanian.
Babajanyan was born in Armenia in 1921 to a very musical family that recognized his musical guest at a very young age. After studying in Moscow for several years an establishing himself as a pianist and composer, he returned to his native Armenia to teach and compose.
One of his favorite things to do was to compose music based on poetry and literature. Many of his compositions are rooted in folk lore from Armenia and Russia, and this one is no exception. He was also fearless when incorporating other styles of music into his compositions. There are traces of jazz, rock’n roll, and blues music in many of his compositions. I would encourage you to listen for the jazz-like harmonies that are present throughout the music.
It is fitting to have this piece be performed by Armen Babakhanian, who is one of the most highly revered Armenian musicians of all time. He studied with pianists who were students of Babajanyan himself and has built his career around the music of Armenia. His performance of this brief little composition is one of the most compact and intense displays of virtuosity you will ever see, so I would highly encourage you to take the just a few minutes to watch the video. Notice the ways that his body language reflects the mood and atmosphere of music. He is not aimlessly throwing himself around the instrument like many musicians unfortunately do; he is using his movements to meaningfully accentuate the contours of the music. As far as his technical prowess is concerned, I’m not sure I can adequately describe it (at least not in a way that does it justice). You’ll see what I mean 🙂